13 Of The Best Documentaries To Watch Online
7 Days Out, Netflix
Witness the excitement and drama behind the scenes in the seven days leading up to major live events in the worlds of sports, fashion, space and food in Netflix’s latest docu-series. While we loved episode one – the Westminster Dog Show – the highlight has to be the Chanel show, which follows the late creative director Karl Lagerfeld as he prepares for the spring/summer 2018 couture show. Directed by Andrew Rossi, the man behind The First Monday in May, this is a must-watch for fashion fans and a fitting tribute to Lagerfeld, who died just months after the documentary was aired.
The Case Against Adnan Syed, Now TV
This 2019 series follows the 1999 disappearance and murder of 18-year-old high school student Hae Min Lee, and the subsequent conviction of her ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed – a case brought to global attention by the hugely popular Serial podcast. In production since 2015, the series closely re-examines the events leading up to Hae Min Lee’s disappearance to the aftermath of her disappearance, the original police investigation and the present day, when Syed awaits a new trial.
F1: Drive To Survive, Netflix
Netflix’s Drive To Survive is a ten-part docuseries which follows the lives of drivers, managers and team owners – both on and off the track – during one cutthroat season of Formula 1 racing. Designed for both die-hard fans and newcomers to the sport, it's a fly-on-the-wall experience highlighting the drama and politics in F1, taking viewers through every stage of the world championship calendar, beginning in Melbourne and ending in Abu Dhabi. From seeing the winding streets of Monaco and Bahrain transformed into high-speed tracks to witnessing the distress of older, established teams going through hard times while young upstarts race past, the glamour, speed and thrill of the chase is all present in this Netflix original. Whether you’re a novice or a petrolhead, Drive To Survive offers an eye-opening crash course in what goes on when the helmets come off. Read our full review here.
Grass Is Greener, Netflix
Weed. Marijuana. Grass. Pot. Whatever you prefer to call it, America’s relationship with cannabis is a complicated one. In his directorial debut, hip hop pioneer Fab 5 Freddy presents an unparalleled look at the racially biased history of the war on marijuana. Snoop Dogg, Cypress Hill’s B-Real and Damian Marley join a range of celebrities and experts who discuss the plant’s influence on music and pop culture, and the impact its criminalisation has had on black and Latino communities. As more and more states join the push to legalise marijuana, Grass is Greener dives deep into the glaring racial disparities in the growing cannabis market.
Homecoming: A Film By Beyoncé, Netflix
With all the social media chit-chat, you would have probably heard by now that Queen Bey has brought her now-infamous Coachella show to Netflix in Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé, written, directed and produced by the woman herself. With over 200 people filling the stage, it took Queen Bey and her team months to script the show, rotating between three sound stages – categorised by band, dancing and creative. For such a huge show with so many moving parts, it’s a miracle it only took eight months to put together – four months with the band and then four months with the dancers. In Homecoming, we witness the lot: from her diet and exercise routines, to dressing downs from Bey herself and intimate insights into her pregnancies. Read our full review here.
This documentary about renowned fashion designer Alexander McQueen takes a bold approach to create an authentic celebration and a richly detailed portrait of his life, legacy and influence. Mixing archive footage, photographs and audio recordings with scenes recreated just for the film, it takes a deep dive into the world of the late, great Lee McQueen. It’s worth watching the film for the catwalk shows alone. Long before ‘installations’, ‘immersive’ and ‘interactive’ became common parlance in terms of shows, McQueen captured whole worlds in his collections. Given that this was a pre-digital, social media-free world, McQueen’s dedication to evolution and the intertwining strands of sex and fashion shock and impress. Read our full review here.
Our Planet, Netflix
New from the creator of BBC’s Planet Earth, Our Planet takes viewers on an unprecedented journey through some of the world's most precious natural habitats, all narrated by the inimitable Sir David Attenborough. A must-watch, the series is available to watch all at once, giving us the chance to binge rather than wait for Sir David’s usual Sunday night slot. Created in partnership with World Wildlife Fund, this eight-part series combines stunning photography and technology with an unprecedented, never-before-filmed look at the planet’s remaining wilderness areas and their animal inhabitants. The ambitious four-year project has been filmed in 50 countries across all the continents of the world, with over 600 members of crew capturing more than three and a half thousand filming days, and will focus on the breadth of the diversity of habitats around the world, from the remote Arctic wilderness and mysterious deep oceans to the vast landscapes of Africa and diverse jungles of South America.
Paris Is Burning, Netflix
Fans of current BBC2 show Pose should take a look at this 1990s documentary, upon which the fiction show is based. Added to Netflix this year, Paris Is Burning is fundamental viewing, taking a deep dive into why the 1980s drag ball scene became such a shelter for those who entered: whether they were queer, black, Latino, homeless, abandoned by their families, or – frequently – all the above. This Sundance prize-winning documentary focuses on "house" culture as groups from each house compete in elaborate balls that take cues from the world of fashion. Featuring interviews with a number of renowned drag queens, including Willi Ninja, Pepper LaBeija and Dorian Corey, this film is as joyful as it is poignant.
Period. End Of Sentence, Netflix
Period. End of Sentence is a documentary about the stigma surrounding menstruation in Northern India, where the lack of sanitary products and menstrual education mean millions of girls end up missing school – or worse, dropping out entirely – once they start their period. The 26-minute film documents a group of women who use a machine to make low-cost sanitary pads in a modest village in the Hapur district, as an attempt to improve women’s access to feminine hygiene products, in turn empowering women and pushing for a revolution in the area. Read our full review here.
Rolling Stone: Stories From The Edge, Now TV
Another from Alex Gibney, this two-part special chronicles the last 50 years of American music, politics and pop culture through the perspective of a magazine that understood rock ‘n’ roll was more than music: it was a cultural force that helped shape America and defined generations. A visual and musical experience of the magazine’s history, the film features performances by The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Tina Turner, Janis Joplin, The Sex Pistols, The Clash and Ice-T. The documentary also goes behind the scenes of key stories that shaped America, including the 1972 presidential election as covered by Hunter Thompson, the revealing inside account of the kidnapping of Patty Hearst, and Jann Wenner’s poignant day-after-the-election interview with Barack Obama in 2016.
The Dirt, Netflix
This isn’t strictly a documentary, rather a biopic about one of the 80s’ most hair-raising bands. Based on Mötley Crüe’s 2001 best-selling autobiography, The Dirt is an unflinching and uncensored story about sex, drugs, rock ‘n roll, fame, and the high price of excess. Director Jeff Tremaine (Jackass, Bad Grandpa) shows us just how Nikki Sixx (Douglas Booth), Mick Mars (Iwan Rheon), Tommy Lee (Colson Baker), and Vince Neil (Daniel Webber) took Mötley Crüe from the Sunset Strip to the world stage, and what it meant to become the world’s most notorious rock band. It’s worth a watch just to see Douglas Booth in leggings.
The Inventor: Out For Blood In Silicon Valley, Now TV
Academy Award winner Alex Gibney (Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, Going Clear: Scientology) directs this documentary investigating the rise and fall of Theranos, the one-time multibillion-dollar healthcare company founded by Elizabeth Holmes. In 2004, Holmes dropped out of Stanford to start a company that was going to revolutionise healthcare. In 2014, Theranos was valued at $9bn, making Holmes, who was touted as “the next Steve Jobs,” the youngest self-made female billionaire in the world. Just two years later, Theranos was cited as a “massive fraud” by the SEC, and its value was less than zero. Drawing on never-before-seen footage and testimony from key insiders, Gibney tells a Silicon Valley tale that was too good to be true. Learn more from our podcast.
The Price of Everything, Amazon Video
Exploring the labyrinth of the contemporary art world, The Price of Everything examines the role of art and artistic passion in today’s money-driven, consumer-based society. Featuring collectors, dealers, auctioneers and a rich range of artists – from current market darlings Jeff Koons, Gerhard Richter and Njideka Akunyili Crosby, to one-time art star Larry Poons – the film exposes deep contradictions as it holds a mirror up to contemporary values and times, coaxing out the dynamics at play in pricing the priceless.
Woman With Gloria Steinham, Now TV
Steinem An American political activist, feminist and writer who started her fight against the patriarchy in the 1970s, Gloria Steinem has been active in helping create women’s political action groups, leading the conversation on women's rights. With this eight-part Viceland series, Woman with Gloria Steinem, the activist travels the world meeting those whose lives are in the crosshairs and examines violence and other gender-based struggles that women still experience today. The field correspondents, whose own experiences vary, explore case studies in Africa, Asia, and North and South America. Not only do they highlight the misfortunes these victims go through, but they show the regional grassroots activism that allows women to improve their quality of life by collaborating and becoming organised on a local level.
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